Aside from your household expenses such as your rent/mortgage or utility costs, groceries are most often the single most expensive part of a family budget. There are quite a few different ways to save money on groceries, but eventually, you will hit a wall on the things you’re doing to save money. It happens to all of us at some point or another and it usually ends with a few minutes searching for a new method. One of my favorite ways to save is by making a meal seem larger than it is. It’s a fantastic way to save without your family even being aware that you’re doing it!
It might seem counter-intuitive to add food to a meal or to change the way you’re eating to save money since you’re spending money on the things you’re adding but it really can save. The reason behind it is that the things you’re doing are usually much cheaper. For instance, you could cook a doubled recipe using hamburger to stretch your meal. If you do that though, you’ll be paying for twice the meat. Instead, you could use one of the methods on this list and even though you’re adding food, you’re adding a food that costs considerably less. Most of the food items on this list are frugal pantry staples you should keep on hand anyhow.
Ways to Save Money on Groceries – 17 Ways to Make a Meal Seem Larger
In addition to foods that you can add to stretch a meal, I’ve also added a few ways that don’t include adding extra foods. These ways work for anyone so if you can’t do an addition for some reason such as a special diet, you’ll still be able to save. We use all of these ways to save money on groceries – both the additions and the other ways – in our home and they have helped me cut my grocery bill by one-third at the very least. Some I use daily and others I only pull out of my pocket when my grocery budget is tight. Either way though, you can bet that I’m using them when I need to and you should be as well.
Beans are incredibly cheap when you buy them in dry bulk which makes them perfect for adding to a meal to make it seem larger. It doesn’t take a lot of them to stretch a meal since they go so far. My personal favorite bean to add to meals is dark red kidney beans since they’re easy to cook and are pretty inconspicuous when mixed in with a meal. Plus, when you add beans to a meal to stretch it, you’ll get the added benefit of a high fiber meal which means your family will eat less and be a little bit healthier than they were before.
Pasta of any sort is pretty cheap – again when you buy it in bulk – which makes it a great addition to any meal to stretch it. Growing up, my Mom and Dad both had a habit of adding egg noodles to homemade chili. By doing that, they stretched the meal so that we all ate our fill on dinner night but also had leftovers the following day. My Dad always took leftovers to work the following day so by stretching their meals, it allowed them to save money on packing him a lunch.
In my pantry right now is 100 lbs of white rice. Why? Because rice is super cheap and it’s even cheaper when you buy it in bulk. It is also great for stretching a meal and making it seem larger. Add it to soups, casseroles, stews or spice it up as a simple side dish. Either way, it is a very cheap addition to your pantry and one that will fill up hungry bellies easier. For us, we love to eat it plain, with cheese or – on days when I can coax her into it – my Emma makes an amazing cheesy zucchini rice. You can stretch the meal for under $2.00 if you do it right and use rice as your main way of stretching.
Like rice, oats are another fantastic way to stretch a meal and yes, I have around 100 lbs of those in storage too. Use them to stretch a meatloaf, use them to thicken soups or use them as a way to “extend” breakfast. Oats are very high in fiber which will make you feel fuller much quicker. By using them, you fill up quicker and as a result, eat less. Not only that, but they’re extremely cheap in bulk. Watch the sale ads and you can often find them for less than $0.50 per pound in bulk. We have both steel cut oats and quick rolled oats in storage. I paid $0.48 per pound for them at Sprouts not too long ago.
Vegetables, especially green, leafy vegetables are more healthy than most people realize. They’re also a fantastic way to stretch a meal. Vegetables such as fresh spinach, kale, beans, peas, carrots, celery and even cabbage can all be added to meals without changing the flavor of the recipe a whole lot with the added bonus that most of them are fairly cheap. You can make them even cheaper by growing your own garden if you want.
Potatoes are another great -and cheap! – way to stretch a meal. Either use them as a side, chunk them up and add them to your soup or stew or dice them and mix them into a casserole. They’re super cheap to grow yourself from scraps or if you have to buy them, they’re usually pretty cheap at the store too.
Yes. Water. You’d be surprised at how much simply adding water to a meal can stretch it. If you’re having a thick stew, add a bit of water to thin the broth and make it into a soup. Not only that, but having a glass of water before you eat will make you feel fuller and cause you to eat less without feeling deprived and without being deprived of nutrition.
Ahhh! The power of cheese! Cheese is not only full of tasty, tasty goodness, but it is fantastic for stretching a meal when you need a few new ways to save money on groceries! Shred it, slice it, dice it, chunk it or eat it plain, but add it to your meals to make them seem larger. Not only that, but you’ll add calcium to your meal with one simple addition!
Serve Bread –
Bread, especially homemade bread, is super cheap, filling and absolutely delicious when served warm and fresh. When you serve it with some butter along side of your meal, your family will eat less of the main meal and won’t feel deprived. In fact, a lot of the time, I will opt to add a piece of bread with my meal simply for taste! I grew up with bread and butter on the side of pretty much everything so it only makes sense to me to add it at meal time! If you want to save even more, buy a bread machine and start making your own homemade bread.
Tortillas are a constant in my home not only because they’re tasty but because they can help a meal seem larger than it is. They can seriously be used for anything! Dip them, spread cheese or meat on them or whatever! Because they’re so versatile, they’re a great addition to a meal when you’re looking for ways to save money on groceries. I like to get creative to see how I can add them to the recipe itself and if I can’t, I’ll serve them on the side.
Adding Flaxseed is one of my favorite ways to save money on groceries because there are so many benefits to adding flaxseed to your diet. When you pick up Flaxseed to use in your meals, make certain to buy ground flax. Our bodies can’t digest flax when it is in seed form so you won’t get the nutritional benefits unless it is ground.
Chia Seed –
Chia seed is another healthy addition that will stretch your meals. When you buy chia seeds, you can buy whole or ground and still get the nutritional benefits. It’s great for making a meatloaf, soup or other quick meal seem larger than it is and because it is so healthy for you, you can add it without worrying about depriving your family.
Eat Simpler Meals –
One of my favorite meals growing up was what my family calls “Johnny Marzetti.” Okay, I’m lying. I’d probably drive the 2 days home if my Aunt Tina would promise to make it for me when I got there. I can make it myself of course, but I’m sure you will agree that some things will never taste quite as good as they do when your family makes it. This simple meal consists of hamburger, egg noodles, tomatoes and tomato sauce, kidney beans and cheddar cheese. It might not sound great, but take my word for it that it is. Even better? It’s amazing in taste and incredibly cheap to make. The entire dish can be made to feed a huge family – my Aunt regularly feeds 10 or more – in one baking dish for under $10.00 for the entire meal.
Eat on smaller plates –
We live in a society that thinks we need huge portions to be healthy and full, but the truth is that we don’t. In fact, if you’ve ever seen a diabetic plate, you already know that smaller portions are what is recommended for a healthy diabetic diet. You may not be diabetic but the idea of eating on a smaller plate is one of my favorite ways to save money on groceries. By eating on a smaller plate, you essentially trick your brain into thinking that you’ve had a lot of food. Your brain doesn’t “see” the smaller plate. Instead, it sees a full plate of food and it takes less to fill you up!
Start with a salad –
Going along with adding vegetables to stretch a meal, starting your meal with a salad is also one of my favorite ways to save money on groceries. Not only does it begin your meal in a healthy way, but it also helps your family to feel more full quicker. As we’ve already discussed, when your family feels full quicker, they eat less and by default, you spend less.
Make soup or stew –
Soups or stews should be high on your recipe lists when you’re looking for ways to save money on groceries. The absolute best soup recipes are cheap to make, they’re filling and they usually make a lot so that you’ll have leftovers available for the next day. We live in Texas so we don’t do soups or stews in the summer, but during the fall, winter and spring, we eat soup or stew at least once a week.
Cook casseroles –
Want to hear something that you may find odd? My family doesn’t eat fried chicken very often. It has nothing to do with keeping healthy because we love fried chicken. It is simply because fried chicken is such an expensive meal. For what I would spend making one fried chicken meal, I can make two casseroles or two of my favorite slow cooker recipes. It isn’t only fried chicken that is like this. There are a lot of other meals that are common on a menu plans that are more expensive than making a soup, stew or casserole. If you’re looking for ways to save money on groceries, take a look at your menu and cut back any meals that seem budget friendly but really aren’t.